Ready or not…! We’re checking in with our words. The link party’s up + open + stays that way through Sunday. Join here. Let’s catch up!
You know how, sometimes, you come across a thing…over and over, serendipitously or coincidentally or whatever…and you think, Is the universe trying to tell me something?
That’s how it was with two particular poems and me: “Start Close In,” by David Whyte. And “The Journey,” by Mary Oliver.
I knew what was happening. But I put it off.
(Or, I put it off because I knew what was happening.)
I didn’t want to answer the questions. The ones I knew those poems asked of me. It’d require slow time. Honesty. Paper + pen. In other words: Intention. And while I’m all about all those things? I resisted.
Here’s the thing:
I resist poetry.
There’s the slowing down of it. While I live slow, I’m not patient. And poetry asks patience of me. It calls for something else that prose doesn’t (not always, at least): Deep engagement and total surrender, at the same time. Kind of like meditation.
(Reading poetry feels a lot like meditation to me. When I settle in to meditate — really settle in — my heart rate sl-o-o-o-ws. I can feel the ‘rewiring’ all through me, top down, with that first deep breath. Same thing happens in the first few lines of poetry. It’s very cool, actually! So…why would I resist? I think we resist a lot of what nourishes us. Silly humans.)
When I made my Mind Map for Ask ’23, though, I knew it was time. I’d make the time. Commit. And what better month than April? National Poetry Month.
I started my prompt with no expectations.
No structure, no plan, no parameters. No every day I’m going to such and such…. I knew, loosely, I’d get to those two poems. And if that’s all I did, it’d be enough.
(Thank goodness. Because April proved to be…quite something.)
I read around those two poems, at first. The new Kate Baer I was sitting on. (Loved it, loved it.) (Oh, to press a button and have a new Kate Baer collection every single day!) I reread a few favorites, in spurts. John O’Donohue. And Unitarian Universalist poet Nancy Shaffer. I read some new-to-me Joy Harjo poems. (I’ve been going back to this one.)
I saved Oliver and Whyte — just like I’d save the cherry — for last. I even warmed to their questions, as April pressed on. In a way, finally facing them felt like relief. And, really? This dynamic month…in its bright light of travel, of springtime exploding…and in its shadows of life feeling fragile, like the paper-thin seashell I carried home… It seems like the time to answer the poets.
What came of it mostly stays in my journal, though it led to one good talk that’s been piling up over time. (Which happens.) What I will share is a new favorite. As soon as I read it, it felt like a touchpoint. A center.
Today it’s for Crystal. Strong and beautiful. Gracious. Generous. Crazy-loved. By so many! She starts chemo in Colorado this week, on her journey to beat acute myeloid leukemia. (So any extra prayers/vibes/energy/you-name-it?! Please and a big thank you.)
are so perfect
I can hardly believe
their lapped light crowding
Nobody could count all of them —
the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch
only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek
half nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.
– Mary Oliver
That is a rather wonderful poem. Best wishes for your friend.
As you know, I love poetry . . . so I’m happy to see you finding some space for it in your life. (“Start Close In” and “Journey” are two of my absolute, can’t-live-without-poems, by the way.) XO
I applaud you for making time and head space for poetry. I think so many people are intimidated by it, but I find there’s so much to be gained from reading it (even when we do it a bit unwillingly!).
This post gave me all the feels… I, too, am a late comer to the joy that is poetry. I have made it part of my morning meditation time and it just helps set the tone for the day in the very best way.
This month was a real wrestling match with my word… so thank you so much for these check in’s… it helps keep me moving forward!
And I will hold your friend close in my thoughts and prayers XO
What a beautiful poem! Being willing to be dazzled sounds like an invitation I need ❤️ and sending up prayers for your friend.